When one asks what makes a proper flagship coupe? Some will say that you must have eye watering style to help your offering stand out from the rest of the pack. Still, others will say performance and technology rule the day. Regardless of which principle is true, making sure all the stars align to achieve this nirvana is very difficult even for a German luxury car maker like BMW. When the world last saw the 8-Series coupe, it was back in 1990 when the first 8 Series rolled off the assembly line. Designed to be the ultimate 90’s luxury machine, the 8 was available with either a V8 or a V12, and was filled to the brim with the latest in period driving technology. However, timing was clearly not on its side, with the 8 Series appearing just as the world was entering the first Gulf War, and the economic uncertainty that followed. This resulted in the 8 Series being unceremoniously axed just before the start of the new millennium, but BMW has not given up, and has launched the second generation 8-Series. But can the second chapter of this unique model be the worthy sequel that Bimmer loyalists crave? Or will it be a question best left unanswered?
Seductive Styling Draws Plenty Of Stares:
Styling is often the first category that many luxury buyers when it comes to making a decision on whether to add the 8 to their garage, and we think that BMW stylists have hit a home run here. While the first generation did benefit from extensive CAD technology and wind tunnel testing, the limits of 90’s era technology helped create a rather odd looking canvas that looked clumsy from some angles. This time around, the 8 benefits from a whole suite of advancements in the development process, and the end result is a very elegant canvas that certainly does a good job of drawing attention to itself. The front fascia of our Aventurin Red Metallic example wears the current face of BMW well, with far more angles and curves than ever before. The twin kidney grilles are just as big as ever, but here they actually mesh very cohesively with the aggressively honed headlights, as well as the finer details. The grilles also feature active shutters that are closed most of the time, with the flaps only opening for low speed driving to help keep the engine cool. The side profile is chiseled and well defined, while the rear shoulders are very broad, and lead out to the nice looking taillights. The roof can be replaced with a carbon fiber adorned one, but while our tester did not have this optional extra, we think that most buyers will be fine without it since the default body color one does a good job of further highlighting the double bubble sections, as well as the slight taper that leads the eye down to the rear.
This is certainly an improvement over the outgoing 6-Series, and the 8-Series proved to be a very potent conversation starter, with the sleek coupe attracting surprise visits from our neighbors who were more than eager to get an up close look for themselves. The 8-Series also has the spicier M8 at its disposal, but while the M models certainly ratchet up the brawniness and aggression factors, we actually prefer the more discreet look of the 840i partly because it does a better job of broadcasting its mission out to the world, but without overwhelming the eye with additional design elements. The BMW also has an edge over the Mercedes-Benz S-Class coupe which prefers a more elegant suit of clothes, and sacrifices some aggression to do it. The 8-Series Gran Coupe brings four doors into the design, but for those that prefer to maintain the artistic purity baked into the design, we recommend sticking with the two door coupe.
High Quality And Impressive Technology Define A World Class Cabin:
With the exterior exuding a balanced blend of confidence and style, it’s comforting to see that the interior is the main element that ultimately stands out in the 840i. Our tester arrived with a very tasteful two tone gray and tan color scheme that helped create a very welcoming environment for two lucky passengers. The 840i does come with a back seat, but while it is an improvement over rivals like the Lexus LC, it is still a very cramped piece of real estate, and is best left for children or small pieces of cargo. As for the front seats (where the bulk of the action takes place) occupants are outright spoiled with the sheer amount of luxury and space that is on hand. Leg room is very generous, and head room is equally impressive. The cabin has a very high quality feel, with nearly surface being covered in premium leather, metals, and even real wood accents. There are also plenty of physical buttons for various functions including the climate control, drive mode selector, and select audio functions. Our tester came bundled with the latest iteration of BMW’s iDrive system, and we think it is the best iteration of the technology that we have seen yet. The system is paired with a 10.25 inch infotainment screen and during our time with it, we came to appreciate just how easy of a system it is to use, with minimal amounts of lag, load time, and a very easy menu interface that allows you to easily find whatever menu you are looking for. The Harmon Kardon premium sound system also earned high marks for its powerful sound quality as well as the elegant bliss created by high and mid-range notes.
The system itself comes jam packed with all kinds of electronic readouts and features to wow the mind. While the usual suspects like a G-meter, customization of various lighting elements and screen displays are present, there are a number of unusual features that BMW engineers baked into the software to help make the experience befitting of the 8 Series moniker. For instance, our tester actually features the “Caring Car” system that allows the driver to choose from a “Vitalize Mode” or a more soothing “Relax Mode.” Both modes feature different light shows from the ambient lighting system, as well as four different pieces of music (two songs for each mode.) The climate control system is a key player in this elaborate choreography, and the modes actually automatically manipulate the fan speed during the few minutes or so that it is active. As such, occupants must set it to full automatic mode before indulging in this particular suite of coddling.
The 8-Series also incorporates BMW’s all new Gesture Control system, which allows you to use certain hand gestures to control certain features. BMW has not expanded Gesture Control to all aspects of iDrive just yet, but for now, buyers can use the system in the audio, navigation, phone menu, and the rear backup camera system. Gesture Control uses a camera that is mounted in the headliner to pickup five different hand gestures (the fifth is a custom one owners can assign.) First unleashed in the current generation BMW 7-Series, BMW claims that the system is supposed to reduce driver distraction, and encourage them to keep their eyes on the road. Our experience with the system was somewhat of a mixed bag when we tried it out at various points on our daily commute. While the gesture based layout did help keep our eyes on the road, the camera is very finicky, and we quickly discovered that it took a few tries for it to formally pick up and interpret what gesture we wanted to use. This finickiness resulted in jerky movements, especially in the rear back up camera’s full surround view feature.
Who Needs A V8 With A Six Cylinder This Good?
That was the question we were asking after putting our tester through its paces on a twisty section of tarmac in the western part of the state. While the 8-Series can be equipped with two different V8s, our 840i grade car arrived with the 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline six engine. While the 335 horsepower and 368 lb-ft of torque wielded by the engine is a far cry from the M850i’s 523 horsepower twin-turbo V8, we ultimately preferred the 3.0 liter. While the exhaust note is a bit lacking when compared to its eight cylinder siblings, the engine is no slouch, with our rear wheel drive tester making the sprint to 60 mph in 4.7 seconds (4.4 with the optional all-wheel drive system.) There’s abundant amounts of low end torque on hand, and the ZF sourced eight speed automatic is a fantastic dance partner, with the unit delivering laser sharp shifts, as well as eagerly downshifting when the driver needs to make a quick lane change on the freeway or an equally swift exit out of an apex. The M850i might be quicker, but the 840i has a very compelling secret ingredient that makes its blend of driving fun a bit more enjoyable.
So where’s that something extra you might be asking? It is baked right into the handling and chassis dynamics. While the heavier V8 adds more weight into the front of the car, the lighter six cylinder creates a far more balanced weight ratio, and that helped make it far more enjoyable in scenic curvy roads. The thick rimmed steering wheel does not offer much feedback, but that doesn’t stop the rack itself from delivering good amounts of communication and a weighted feel to the drivers hands. The four wheel steering system goes in for the figurative hat trick, and makes the 8 feel far smaller and more nimble than it really is. Turn in is extremely sharp, and the big two door goes through the motions with the poise and dignity of a Bolshoi ballet dancer. While all-wheel drive and two extra cylinders do make an impact in straight line driving, buyers looking for a pure GT experience will be encouraged to stick with the lighter rear wheel drive layout, as well as the 3.0 liter to achieve automotive nirvana.
Pricing for the 2020 BMW 8-Series is predictably positioned to target the core of the flagship sedan segment, with our rear wheel drive tester having a base price of $87,900. Gran Coupe variants are slightly less expensive, with a base $84,900 price tag greeting more practicality focused buyers. Our example arrived with a very hefty options list, which helped increase the price tag to a grand total of $101,445. That’s a considerable sum for a two door coupe, but it is slightly lower than the last Lexus LC 500 we tested which crossed the $104,000 barrier fully equipped. However, with the 8 trying to cater to both the GT and sports car sides of the coin, it will certainly have its hands full in trying to satisfy both extremes. The Chevrolet Corvette for example offers a mid-engine layout, as well as a cheaper $58,995 base price. But it can only be had with a V8 (that is more powerful than the 3.0 liter,) the Vette has also had a very rough launch due to the combination of the UAW strike as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Another alternative is the Jaguar F-Type and while it is another pure two seater, the Jag can be equipped with a supercharged 3.0 liter V6, which makes slightly more horsepower than the Bimmer, and it also excels in delivering crisp handling. However, Jaguar dropped the rear wheel drive version with the 2021 model, and the V6 can only be equipped with all-wheel drive.
While the spotlight here is on the 3.0 liter inline six, it’s important to note that the 8 also offers V8 powered motivation starting with the M850i. More power and a better soundtrack are found here, but when you cross into the same plane of performance as the Maserati Gran Turismo, F-Type R, as well as the iconic Porsche 911, you also venture into a higher pricing ladder and lower fuel economy figures.
The 8-Series when looked at for what it is, could be considered the best interpretation of a flagship luxury coupe we have yet seen. While the original 8-Series was too far ahead of its time when it came out in the 1990s, this second chapter is fully in sync with a new era of drivers, especially when it comes to technology, styling, and performance. We look forward to seeing what the future holds for the coupe, and whether it can weather the challenges of an evolving automotive landscape.
Carl Malek has been an automotive journalist for over 10 years. First starting out as a freelance photographer before making the transition to writing during college, his work has appeared on numerous automotive forums as well as websites such as Autoshopper.com.
Carl is also a big fan of British vehicles with the bulk of his devotion going to the Morgan Motor Company as well as offerings from Lotus, MG, and Caterham. When he is not writing about automobiles, Carl enjoys spending time with his family and friends in the Metro Detroit area, as well as spending time with his adorable pets.